Things Are Stirring Up Again

Just a quick pointer today toward the heartland where a labor situation is brewing at the Omaha Symphony…


Recently, negotiations broke down between the Omaha Symphony Musicians’ Organization (represented by AFM Local 70-558) and the Omaha Symphony Association. According to a press release issued by the musicians, the talks have broken down due to what they describe as a “refusal to negotiate in good faith, salary & benefit gaps.” Nevertheless, according to a press release (pdf) issued by the Omaha Symphony Association, the “Management is willing to discuss at anytime the various aspects of our respective positions.”

On the surface, the salary gaps indicated in the musicians’ press release have some readily accessible numbers (which are available in the Adaptistration Compensation Report, $15 + $3 S/H) which break down as follows:

>From the 99/00 season through 04/05 season:

  • The Omaha Symphony Musician Base Salary increased from $21,572 to $27,502: a cumulative increase of 27.489% or an average of 4.58% per year.
  • The Omaha Symphony Executive Director compensation increased from $104,434 to $171,952: a cumulative increase of 64.651% or an average of 10.77% per year.

  • As such, it is easy to see that the executive compensation has increased at a rate which more than doubles the musician base salary. Stay tuned; I’m certain there is more to come. In the meantime, you can learn more about the musicians’ positions at their website and – as of this publication date – the only information from management is via their press release from 06/01/2007 (linked above).

    About Drew McManus

    "I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

    I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

    In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

    For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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